Fifa president Sepp Blatter once called India the sleeping giant of football. With the world’s second largest population, India is under-represented in the world’s most popular sport. India’s Fifa world ranking of 154 reflects the game’s decline in one of the oldest football-playing nations. In fact, football was introduced to India much earlier than it was established in Brazil by Britain. It started in the 1850s, whereas the British laid the foundation of football in Brazil much later in the 1880s. But the last time India qualified for the Fifa World Cup was in 1950 and that too by default.
It has been a sorry tale after 1951 when India had bagged the football gold in the first Asian Games. We have never qualified for the Olympics after 1960. India’s last important performance in an international tournament was in 1970 Asian Games, when it won the bronze medal. In January 2011 India played in the Asian Cup for the first time in 24 years. Sadly, we were knocked out in the group stage. The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup is scheduled to take place in India and hosts we get direct entry.
As far as the leagues go, India’s hotly-contested I-League languishes at 92 in global rankings. Now the rich are going to get Indian Super League. But what about the under-privileged? This is where Stairs intends to fill up the vacuum.
Football is a game of the masses. All you need is a ball and a ground. Children play football because it is fun, challenging and exciting. Studies have shown that the game teaches cooperation and team work, helps develop positive social skills and respect for others. It helps build self-confidence, a positive self-image and self-worth. Every youth in a sports field also means one person less who can be misled by anti-social elements. As far as the physical aspect is concerned, football enables a child to improve upon and develop a broad range of motor skills like throwing, catching, running, kicking, balance, agility and coordination. Since a broad spectrum of skills and physical abilities are required on a football team, there is a position for every child to play.
Today’s youth views sport as an employment-enhancing vocational skill which can help them escape from the vicious circle of poverty. There are many sports other than cricket where players from Bharat have excelled because individual talent received precedence. Football’s latent popularity in India is reflected in viewership for global events such as the Fifa World Cup and English Premier League. All it needs is a spark to ignite the passion. Stairs intends to do just that.
Football For Growth is an initiative by Stairs to connect Bharat with India. We at Stairs feel that contributing to the reinvigoration of football will herald a sports revolution which will contribute to making India not just a global sports power but also a healthy and physically-fit country.
Football For Growth aims to distribute footballs across the country as the first step. This will be done by inviting donations from individuals, corporate and other institutions to purchase and distribute football.
The programme also envisages: